Monday, September 21, 2015

"Hi-Viz" Knitting with Reflective Yarn

Reflective Knitting
As it happens, there is quite a bit of overlap between bicyclists and knitters. And so, on occasion, the subject of knitting makes an appearance on this blog. This time, however, it is particularly apt, as I am doing some "hi-viz" knitting. I am making a sweater out of reflective yarn and wanted to share my impressions with others curious about what working with it is like.

Reflective Knitting
The existence of reflective yarns was brought to my attention some years ago. Unfortunately, all of these yarns were synthetic and I prefer to knit with natural fibers, so I was never tempted to give them a try. Then recently I stumbled upon this Rico Glühwürmchen yarn ("glow worms" in German) at the Row by Roe knitting shop in Limavady, Northern Ireland. Unlike the other reflective yarns I have come across, this one is a woolen blend. And so I decided try it out on a cable-knit jumper commissioned by a fellow cyclist.

The Glühwürmchen is a super chunky yet lightweight and airy yarn that is roughly 40% wool, 50% acrylic and 10% reflective glass fibre thread. It comes in a variety of colours, from vibrant hues of coral and turquoise to neutrals like gray and beige. Here I am using the navy, which is a nice inky dark blue. The reflective thread complements it nicely, I think - which is fortunate, as even without flash, its presence in the yarn s quite noticeable. The luminous thread has a silvery sparkle to it, not unlike tinsel. And to the touch it feels like tinsel as well, its texture and density a stark contrast to the soft fluffy wool it is interwoven with. When I first started to knit with it, this textural combination felt strange, and the needles would occasionally catch on the glass fibre thread. But I got used to it quickly and found it to be pretty smooth-going once I did. I should also add that the glass fiber thread is tough and durable, so that even if your needles catch on it, it is very difficult to snap.

Reflective Knitting
Some describe reflective yarns as "glow in the dark," but as those familiar with reflective wear already know, that is not quite accurate. Rather, the reflective threads light up under direct light - such as a car's headlights, a camera flash, even bright sunlight. When illuminated, the yarn looks as shown above. You can see why the company calls it "glow worms!" - although personally, I could do without the worms imagery, and prefer to compare the look to a lurex disco top instead.

Being a chunky weight yarn, the Glühwürmchen wool knits up pretty quickly on size 8 needles. I have tried it in plain stocking stitch, but find that it looks especially nice with chunky cables, showing them off crisply. Unfortunately, the glow of the reflective thread does not follow the lines of the cables, so this aspect of the design is lost when the garment is illuminated.

Reflective Knitting
Overall, I am finding reflective yarn fun to work with, and I look forward to seeing how the finished jumper performs in action. In the future though, I may go a different route and source the reflective glass fibre thread separately, then weave it into a 100% wool yarn of my choice myself. I could use a reflective hat for the dark winter months in the countryside!

If you are a knitter and have questions about reflective yarn before investing in some yourself, I would be happy to answer them. Likewise, if you have experience either using reflective yarns, or making your own, you are very welcome to share.

34 comments:

  1. How many meters do you need for the cowl that you are knitting?

    This yarn is super amazing!

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    1. I am making a funnel neck sweater in size Small, and expect to use 500g (5 skeins).
      For a cowl, I'd say you would need 1 skein, or possibly 2 depending on the style.

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  2. Interesting yarn, neat idea. Is the fiber scratchy? Could you wear it next to bare skin? If one of the strands were to break, is it sharp (and pokey)? I'm not a knitter, but I have knitty friends, and I like wool sweaters.


    Wolf.

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    1. It is not at all scratchy; very soft. But it's a chunky yarn that's really meant to be worn over a base layer. Unless it's a hat of course.

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  3. Ooh! My co-workers and I were just talking about experimenting with reflective yarn (I work at a knitting company). I like the idea of holding the reflective thread with the yarn while you knit- it'd be easier to highlight elements like a cable, or to make a hidden pattern, like stripes.

    Also, that Bella Ciao is just so gorgeous! Is that the rack that you designed? I wish they had a dealer closer to me so I could take one for a ride :)

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    1. "I work at a knitting company"

      {salivating}

      Yes, weaving the thread selectively was the sort of thing I had in mind. A hidden image of a bicycle in a triangle (as in "yield") on the back comes to mind, though perhaps that idea is a bit cheesy!

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  4. It almost looks like a sparkly tweed. How does the resulting fabric feel against your skin? Is the tinsel-like glass fiber scratchy? I'd be interested in trying some on a small project. Or, like you said, weaving some of the fiber into a finished knit. Which reminds me, I recently came across a how-to video on sewing LEDs into clothing. Which seems like a lot of fun. Some basic soldering experience is required for the circuitry. Seemed like a fun project! It's got my creative gears turning... 😄

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    1. It is a very soft yarn, and the reflective bits are not scratchy. Personally I would not wear it directly against the skin bc of the acrylic content, but if you are not sensitive to that there is no problem.

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  5. I'm also a cyclist and crochet with reflective yarn! A brand readily available here in the States is "RedHeart" Here's my results: http://rustyredriding.blogspot.com/2015/01/currently-convalescing-with-crocheting_21.html

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    1. Nice. I cannot crochet but this looks great, and thanks for the link to your blog.

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  6. commissioned by a fellow cyclist.... this means you do custom knitting work? interested party here!

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    1. Yes, although I've been trying to wind that down and instead open an online shop with some pre-made items. If there's something specific you're looking for, drop me a line at filigreevelo{a}yahoo.

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  7. You might try using regular yarn for the major part of the sweater body and using the Glowworm yarn as intarsia stripes, giving you the effect of racing stripes or, as you suggest, a Yield triangle.

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    1. True, although that would commit me to using the same weight/density yarn for the non-reflective sections. But say you wanted to knit with Aran weight yarn - that's where mixing up your own would be handy.

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  8. I'm not sure how the blue disco top and Wellies will look on a green Bella Ciao-- worms or no worms! But I will respectfully withhold judgment until you post some pics for our consideration.

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    1. Well, as I said it is not for me; not even sure the size will fit me to try on properly. But I will ask the future owner to demonstrate with a similar outfit : )

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  9. Last year, I made a hat for my son out of yarn with the integrated reflective threads. It works, but doesn't really light up in the headlights as much as I would like (its dark in Norway when he comes home from school). I think that I will try knitting one with separately produced reflective yarn woven tightly into specific places rather than spread out throughout the hat to get more reflective effect.

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    1. Out of curiosity, were you using this specific yarn? Because we (myself and Lisa, the owner of the local shop selling it) were actually surprised at how reflective the Rico stuff is. Reading reviews of other yarns, I understand it has higher reflective content than either RedHeart or Lumio.

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    2. I was. Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of reflection. Perhaps an odd batch? I might try again this winter.

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  10. Very nice! I'll have to look up the natural fiber one, I prefer wool too!

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  11. Ooh that does look nice! I have used Schachenmayr Lumio in the past, but like you prefer yarn with actual wool content. Thank you for the knitting features!

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  12. Sounds like a great material for leg warmers or arm warmers. Those items avoid the sizing issues.

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  13. I like 'hi-viz'…tried your 'black' theory and it didn't turn out so well as I was run off the road by someone who 'didn't see me…It's complicated. Anyway, knitting is good, hi-viz is good and this makes perfect sense. Only down side is the it's hi-viz at night. My incident occurred midday…:(

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  14. I have knitted a couple of scarves using Retroglo http://fiberrhythm.com/FRCDshop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=41 Retroglo is reflective 3M tape cut very thin. I found it was a bit scratchy when I used an acrylic yarn but was better when I used a silk merino blend, although it will never be as soft as what ever you are knitting it with by itself. I also added it as a blanket stitched hem to an old windfleece, as I wasn't comfortable riding in black but I think the effect might be too subtle. The yarn is quite interesting that you can really feel the roughness of the microscopic glass beads on the surface even though you can't see them. I just have to try a few more things to knit with it other than a couple of scarves as I have about 9km of it.

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  15. Which bike is this? It's pretty!

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  16. Of course, I catch up on one of my favorite cycling blogs to find that you've written about reflective yarn two weeks before I 'discovered' it at my local craft store. I picked up a few skeins of the acrylic stuff, but I love wool and I'm pretty excited about the idea of reflective wool yarn. I'm currently knitting a reflective cowl with Minecraft Creepers on it for my 10 year old nephew. I'm hoping to churn out some Christmas gifts in the next few weeks so I can rationalize making some stuff for myself. I'm thinking of doing a crocheted granny square bag with some of the reflective yarn. I'll use the bag with my wire panniers to give me some extra reflection on the back of my bike. Or maybe I'll just yarn bomb the panniers.

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    1. I am making an attempt at a knitted rag rug at the moment; non-reflective. You're supposed to crochet those things, but I don't crochet so will try it with knitting and see how it goes. If it works, I am thinking I could knit some panniers out of strips of waterproof fabric (i.e. old raincoats), or even plastic bags!

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  17. For those looking for reflective knitwear but cannot knit, check out On The Glo (ontheglo.net). They are a social enterprise making ethically produced reflective knitwear!

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  18. I'd love to know what pattern you're using, it looks like it'll be a beautiful sweater!

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    1. No pattern. Made to measure sweater using an overlapping cable motif, my own design.

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  19. Where can I buy the reflective wool in the UK?

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  20. Where can I get this wool in the UK?

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  21. did you ever finish your reflective sweater?! I would love to see it

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